In my opinion, one of the most important—and underrated—parts of engineering is actually storytelling.  Engineered technologies such as social media, cinema, and VR tell powerful stories; moreover, I believe that engineers of any field can greatly benefit from harnessing the power of storytelling to communicate and contemplate ideas about new technologies of all kinds.  For me, USC’s writing education is unparalleled, and I have been able to apply my love for storytelling in both my engineering curriculum and my internships through Illumin Magazine and Thematic Option.

Illumin Magazine is Viterbi’s student-written and student-published online journal with articles discussing engineering in daily life (quick plug: check out our new website).  As an editor, I have enjoyed selecting and editing articles on a variety of topics including the engineering behind vinyl records, 3D printing food, and the mechanization of tofu.  Illumin was the first student organization I joined at USC, and it has shown me since day one that engineering really does have applications in any field. I have grown as an engineer from reading topics on up-and-coming technologies as part of Illumin, and have adored being able to combine writing and engineering in harmony as an editor.

Our new website for Illumin–check it out!

I have also been involved in USC’s Honors English and Writing Program, Thematic Option (TO), since freshman year.  Thematic Option offers inspiring professors, engaging peer discussions, and a strong writing background, and I even had the opportunity to present a research paper in an undergraduate conference through TO (see past conference topics here).  Last summer, I had to give four project presentations while interning at Facebook.  What would have presented a huge obstacle without past experience became an exciting challenge for me—the written and verbal communication skills I learned through TO and its conference helped me deliver polished presentations to my mentors and peers.  Moreover, TO classes ask difficult and important questions regarding technologies that I work on as an engineer. My TO class this semester has focused on many different philosophers, and one paper we read discussed the ethics of social media. My final paper for this class uses this article to critique the Fyre Festival and its Facebook and Instagram branding, allowing me to explore a different side of a technology I have worked on in a technical environment!

The poster from the Thematic Option Conference I presented in–each year has its own unique theme!

Every day at USC, I am reminded of what drew me to engineering in the first place—its hugely interdisciplinary applications, and the wide variety of challenges to master as an engineer that go beyond technical skills into the realm of writing and ethics.

Madelyn Douglas

Madelyn Douglas

MAJOR: Electrical (Computer) Engineering YEAR: Class of 2020 HOMETOWN: Bethseda, Maryland PRONOUNS: she/her/hers